How to certify a vernal pool.

A vernal pool is a small, usually temporary body of water that supports a unique biological community.  Some vernal pools are not be much bigger than a large puddle, but all vernal pools make an important contribution to the diversity of our wildlife.  By taking the time to certify a vernal pool, you document its location and its biology, and provide an important level of protection to the pool’s fragile biological community.


Contact Jane Winn for information.

Video tutorial (in two parts)

The video below, in two parts, is Berkshire Environmental Action Team’s (BEAT’s) tutorial on how to certify a vernal pool in Massachusetts.

Note:  You can now fill out all your vernal pool certification forms online at the website of The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program and you can even submit those forms online.  NHESP has produced a tutorial for this online application.

Photos and audio recordings of vernal pool species

Here are some photos and audio recordings of some of the species mentioned in the above video.

Official guidelines and forms

The Massachusetts Natural Heritage And Endangered Species Program is the agency responsible for certifying vernal pools.  Here is a link to their Guidelines for the Certification of Vernal Pool Habitat (pdf) (“Guidelines”).  This document also includes the forms that must be filled out and submitted to Natural Heritage for the certification of vernal pools.

How to find on-line maps of certified and potential vernal pools

To find the Mass GIS map of Certified and Potential Vernal Pool locations in Massachusetts, go to the MassGIS website , and click on the red MassGIS logo. (If this is your first visit to this site you may need to download the OLIVER Installer.)

This will launch a JAVA script which may take a few minutes to launch depending on the speed of your computer. A “Log In” screen will appear. Log in as Anonymous User (the default – so you just click on the Log In button).

A map of Massachusetts will appear with all the towns outlined. At the top, there is a tool bar with a +magnifying glass (second from the left). Click on the +magnifying glass, then click-and-drag a box around the area you are interested in. You may need to do this a couple of times to zoom into where you want. (There is also a -magnifying glass that allows you to zoom out.)

On the right side of the screen, you can select different layers. These are fun to experiment with, and you can find an overwhelming amount of information, but we would suggest starting with as a base layer either:

  • Images – USGS Topographic Maps – USGS Topographic Maps (or 3D whichever you prefer to use), or
  • Images – Orthophotos – Color Orthos 2005 (gives you aerial photos)

You can view only one of these map types at a time, (topographic map or ortho photo) not both. You can turn them on and off by checking the box at the lower right part of the screen, then clicking “Update Map”. If you have both layers checked (turned on) the one that is higher up in the lower right part of the screen will show. These images will only show when you are zoomed in enough. If you are not zoomed in enough, when you click “Update Map” the title of the layer will be grayed out.

To see the Certified Vernal Pools and Potential Vernal Pools:

  • Conservation/Recreation – Natural Heritage Data – NHESP Certified Vernal Pools
  • Conservation/Recreation – Natural Heritage Data – Potential Vernal Pools

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